Pippa’s Boarding School Stories

Having Pippa home for the weekend means that I get to hear all sorts of hilarious boarding school stories. When I’m not being regaled with tales of a boy taking off running to avoid a drug test and then disappearing for days, I’m giggling at Pippa’s other slightly scandalous tales.

“Then the hockey guys got mad about the dress code and didn’t wear their pants to class. Instead, they wore their suit jackets, ties, and oxfords over their under-armor tights.”

“And then to get back at his girlfriend for breaking up with him, he decides to cut his hair into a mullet. Obviously, it did not work. And then a bunch of other guys did it too, and someone else’s girlfriend dumped them because they couldn’t deal with the mullet. Mullets are never the way to go.”

“Oh, someone started a Gossip Girl-esque Facebook and Twitter account where they share all the gossip about people. It’s really popular. My roommate last year was on it a lot.”

“So, you know, he looks like a Hollywood kind of guy, but the type that always plays hockey players because he is a hockey player.”

I am absolutely entranced by these stories because they nearly all sound like the sort of events that only exist in novels, tv shows, and movies, only I’ve visited the school and can actually verify that they’re the truth.

Boarding school is a whole other world filled with cocaine expulsions, designer purses used as backpacks, and endless dances. If I had the opportunity, I would love to be a fly on the wall and observe these strange and often over-privileged kids in action as they go about their business in preppy clothes. Alas, I am not an Animagi nor have the power to shrink, so I’ll just have to keep hanging on every last one of Pippa’s words and keeping notes on the funny and interesting things she reports.

You can also find me collecting lovely images and words on tumblr athttp://emleng93.tumblr.com/. I’d love for you to follow me on my trek into the wilds of tumblr.

Pippa Leaves for School

Pippa left for school yesterday. And yes, some selfish, wicked part of me was glad to see her gone. We’re like oil and water, we naturally repel the other, but there are times, like when you’re boiling pasta, when when we make an excellent team. There will be no more fights over the state of the bathroom. I won’t be able to call her vapid and petty for watching too much tv and not caring about current events, and she won’t be there to call me neurotic and lame. But she usually becomes my best friend when were in an unfamiliar situation or when one of us is afraid.

It’s kind of odd, but when Pippa is gone, I feel a lot more alone. The house is oddly quiet and still. The slightly metallic sounds of video chatting voices, muffled by the walls are gone, and I don’t hear the laugh tracks from comedies until late into the night. When I lie in bed now, it’s just me and the cats and the the faint chirping of crickets and cicadas. I don’t spend those restless minutes before sleep wondering what jokes are amusing the studio audiences so much.

So yes, I will miss her a great deal, but she’ll come home for Thanksgiving and call every few days with exciting news. It seems like every weekend the school has booked some stand-up comedian or there’s a big dance or a carnival with mechanical bulls or a bungee cord/trampoline contraption. (It’s hearing about those exciting sorts of things that make me think, Why did I not choose to go to prep school? And then I remember exactly how much I love my friends and school at home and just how much I ended up rather disliking the school when I went to visit–too many rich kids caught up in their own little WASP-y world who don’t understand that so much hardship exists outside of their sheltered lives, also there are too many uneducated conservatives who only support the Republican Party because of their economic policies that help the wealthy and big corporations and destroy small businesses and lower and middle class Americans.*) She’s happy there, much happier than when she’s at home.

I wish her much luck during the dreaded Junior year of too many APs and too little sleep, and may she find many more moments of tranquility than I did in eleventh grade.

*I believe that sentence wins the Ella’s Most Poorly Formed Sentence of the Week Award by a long shot.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Greetings from Mr. Ella’s Father

Ella has invited me to confront the tyranny of the blank screen and blinking cursor while she attacks her latest English assignment, writing a sonnet. I remember a few writing assignments from my own senior year of high school. Once, after a series of assigned poems by Donne and Shakespeare, I tried my hand at the fourteen-lined beast. I recall an attempt to satirize the motives of 16th century scribbling swains, ending with a line something like : ‘or better try immortalizing girls.’ At least I could handle iambic pentameter. And wouldn’t “The Scribblin’ Swains” make a great nickname for an elite northeastern liberal arts college? But I digress.

Poetry can be troublesome stuff. I recall writing another sonnet in high school, an ’80s update of ‘come live with me and be my love…” The notion that “we could all the pleasures prove” (I’m paraphrasing from memory) was a pretty enticing image for a prep school boy, and I gave it a mod twist, part Mick Jagger, part Elvis Costello. My teacher found it clever – especially given that it was done for fun, not as an assignment. I tucked it away until Freshman year of college, when once again sonnets were on the menu. I was so proud of my sonneteering that I slipped a handwritten copy of that HS come-hither ode into one of the last essays I submitted to my first semester instructor. And thought nothing further of it.


Just a week or so into the next semester I received a surprising handwritten invitation to tea — from my first semester English instructor. Did I mention she was young? And, as luck would have it, female? I responded to the invitation and arrived at her campus apartment at the appointed hour. We sat down and chatted. I opted for the Early Grey, no sugar. We chatted a bit more. Then she pulled out the sonnet. I recall she seemed to suddenly adopt a coquettish demeanor, quite unlike her classroom presence. “You know,” she began, “this is quite lovely, but I suppose you realize I’m married.”

“Yes, of course,” I replied, still too slow to grasp the situation. “That was just something I wrote in high school. It has a second part I didn’t show you, after she turns him down and he’s all like ‘the hell with you, I never liked you anyway.'” She looked a bit crestfallen. Slowly the light dawns. “Oh, but you thought….”

“Lets just enjoy our tea, shall we?”

Sure thing, Ms. Professor, let’s do just that.

Ok, so that’s the substitute blog post from Dad. Sonnets are fun, but they can get you into trouble. So wear protective headgear.

Failure and Success, All Melded Together

Back in January I sent off an application to Pippa’s boarding school for a post-graduate year. I decided to do this for three reasons. One, I was not ready for college and hoped that a post-graduate year would ease me into the whole studying-away-from-home thing, two, I thought that it would be an academic dream come true with small classes and excellent teachers, and three, the whole romantic side of going to a New England prep school really appealed to me. Somewhere in between having a great time with my new found independence, studying subjects that I really love, comparing beach homes with the super rich kids, and wearing formal dress everyday, I thought that a post-grad year would be the best thing to ever happen to me.

So I went to an admissions event, shadowed Pippa for an afternoon, had a good interview, wrote some great essays (I posted one of them here), submitted a writing sample (posted here), and shoved it all into the mail a week before it was due. Even though I felt confident about the application’s content, I knew, I just knew, that I wasn’t going to get in. I may have straight A’s and have been taking AP courses since my sophomore year, but I also have this charming thing called an IEP. And when schools see those three letters and how much school I missed last year, they tend to run for cover. All they’re thinking is giant liability.

I heard back from the school today. I called Pippa at lunchtime to get her to check the mail, and sure enough the letter was there. She opened it and read it aloud to me over the phone while Clara held my hand.

I didn’t get in.

Sure, I was disappointed, but the voice of reason was the prodominate internal voice. This surprised me because instead of giving over to self-defeating thoughts, I was just annoyed, really, really annoyed, because that IEP has to be the reason why they didn’t accept me.

I excused myself from lunch, went to the Child Study Team and did a little crying, but there were no hysterics. Mostly, I’m just concerned about how colleges will respond to my applications next year. Because getting into a good college is a heck of a lot more important than prep school.

In a weird way, I feel liberated. I don’t have anything that I’m required to do for the coming year. I could go work for my cousin’s anti-corruption non-profit or I could spend time focussed on my writing. I could do anything. Anything at all. It’s my choice.

So here’s to success, and here’s to failure.

But most of all, here’s to my totally awesome plan to bring the rejection letter to school, make people write things that they hate on it, and then burn it in the kitchen sink.